Our Planet

Plastic debris covers much of the sand on Henderson Island.

Plastics Make Beaches Hotter During the Day and Colder at Night

A study of remote islands shows that debris alters sand temperatures

Three giant rocks—Tokia, Rebua, and Kamatoa—sit in the ocean south of Makin Island in the Republic of Kiribati.

How Indigenous Stories Helped Scientists Understand the Origin of Three Huge Boulders

Legends spurred researchers to form a theory about Makin Island's distinctively out-of-place rocks

A diver swims over a bleached section of the Great Barrier Reef near Heron Island.

The Planet Has Lost Half of Its Coral Reefs Since 1950

A new study finds dramatic declines in coral reef cover, biodiversity and fish abundance

Natural disasters do not destroy buildings evenly. By studying which fall and which are left standing, engineers can develop new strategies for the future.

When a Natural Disaster Hits, Structural Engineers Learn From the Destruction

StEER engineers assess why some buildings survive hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and why others do not

Can a machine be taught to understand the plant world?

Innovation for Good

Is This Weed-Spotting, Yield-Predicting Rover the Future of Farming?

The robot, developed by Alphabet Inc.'s X, will make its public debut at the Smithsonian

A thermal image shows a parrot releasing heat through its beak and talons. Researchers have found that since 1871 some parrots have increased their beak area up to 10 percent.

Animals Are Changing Shape to Cope With Rising Temperatures

Birds, bats, rabbits, mice and other creatures are growing bigger body parts to cool themselves off

In this long exposure picture, trees burn on a hillside behind Honey Lake campground during the Dixie Fire on August 18, 2021 in Milford, California. The wildfire in Northern California continues to grow, burning over 626,000 acres according to CalFire.

Innovation for Good

From Supercomputers to Fire-Starting Drones, These Tools Help Fight Wildfires

As climate change worsens wildfires in the West, agencies are tapping into new technologies to keep up with the flames

Many terrestrial birds disappeared in Barro Colorado Island, in the Panama Canal, despite their abundance in adjacent mainland forests, because they could not cross Gatun Lake to maintain populations on the island.

Smithsonian Voices

Despite a Century of Protection, This Island Suffers Critical Loss in Biodiversity

The Barro Colorado bird community has lost about a quarter of its species over time

Transplanting a human protein, known for promoting growth, into crops may engender larger, heavier and more bountiful plants.

Innovation for Good

Researchers Transfer a Human Protein Into Plants to Supersize Them

While a promising route to boosting crop yields, experts say more work needs to be done to understand why the tweak works

Oceanix is gearing up to build a prototype of a 5-acre city for 300 residents in a yet-to-be determined location.

Innovation for Good

In the Face of Rising Seas, Are Floating Cities a Real Possibility?

A scale model of Oceanix City, a concept capable of supporting more than 10,000 residents, will be featured in the Smithsonian's upcoming 'Futures' exhibit

There are many reasons to be worried about the state of the world’s oceans. But some scientists say it’s important to point to successes, in order to motivate people to take further, evidence-based action.

Seven Reasons to Be Optimistic About the World's Oceans

The health of the ocean is under threat, but these good-news stories deserve attention too

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Smithsonian Voices

Drop in Greenhouse Gas Caused Global Cooling 34 Million Years Ago

A new study confirms that carbon dioxide plays a significant role in any climate change

From the surface, the havoc caused on a coral reef by a layer of low-oxygen water was barely evident.

Smithsonian Voices

Watch What Happens When a Coral Reef Can't Get Enough Oxygen

In September 2017, divers observed a massive "dead zone" rising to envelop Caribbean coral reefs in Bocas del Toro, Panama

This glass tube, part of the museum’s collection, once contained a sample of helium. Its paper label reads, “HELIUM / SIR W. RAMSAY, K.C.B., LL.D., F.R.S. / THOMAS TRYER & CO., Ltd. / STRATFORD, LONDON, ENGLAND.”

Smithsonian Voices

The History of How to Store Helium

With large and easily tapped natural supplies, the United States became the world’s leading helium producer

Carolyn Smith collecting beargrass in Klamath National Forest, 2015. For beargrass to be supple enough for weavers to use in their baskets, it needs to be burned annually. Ideally, it is burned in an intentionally set cultural fire, where only the tops are burned, leaving the roots intact. Prescribed fires in the Klamath National Forest are few and far between, so weavers “follow the smoke” and gather, when they can, after wildfires sweep through the landscape.

Smithsonian Voices

How Indigenous Ecological Knowledge Offers Solutions to California's Wildfires

“We need to reintegrate Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and cultural and prescribed burning into our landscape,” Carolyn Smith says

Noise pollution affects the structures within seagrass that help the marine plant detect gravity and store energy.

Seagrass Is Harmed by Noise Pollution

The plant may not have ears, but that doesn’t stop sound from causing serious damage to other structures

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Smithsonian Voices

Scientists Award the Pygmy Sorrel Moth a Big Title

This minute species now holds the coveted title of world's smallest moth

There are about 160,000 species of moths and butterflies worldwide, each with unique characteristics.

Smithsonian Voices

Marvel at the World's Most Magnificent Moths

With thousands of species of moths worldwide, each with unique characteristics, check out these unusual specimens in the Smithsonian collections

From forests to fish to flakes of snow, the science behind ice cream reaches beyond the cone.

Smithsonian Voices

The Strangely Scientific Endeavor of Making Ice Cream

Ice cream's texture is the result of the same processes that govern concepts like forest recovery, rock formation and sub-zero survival in animals.

Chris Meyer, a marine invertebrate zoologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, dives around French Polynesia with equipment used to track coral reef health.

Future of Conservation

Meet the Reef Expert Collecting Environmental Time Capsules

Collecting DNA in waters worldwide can help scientists figure out which places are the most important for conservation

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